“I am the vine, my Father is the Vinedresser… I am the vine, you are the branches” (Jn. 15:1-5).
The words were said on the night Jesus would be arrested. Judas already had left, having found opportunity for Jesus’ arrest absent of crowds (John 13:21-30 cf. Luke 22:3-6). “It was night” (John 13:30b) in more than one way.
Jesus’ words were designed to fortify the disciples. He instructed: (1) Abide in Me (John 15:4-7). The means by which a disciple continues to abide in him is by obedience (John 15:9-10; 1 John 3:24a). The words “abide in my love” (John 15:9-10) refers to fellowship love relations (John 14:21-23). It is up to us to keep ourselves in this love (Jude 21). (2) Let Me abide in you (John 15:4). This means that the word of Christ should find a home in our hearts (John 15:7 cf. Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:11). We’re to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). He is to dwell in us by faith (Ephesians 3:17a). It is to be, “no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). (3) Bear fruit unto the glory of the Father (John 15:1-2, 8). We’re to be “fruitful in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). (4) You cannot bear fruit unto the glory of the Father, unless you abide in Me (John 15:4-6). (5) If you don’t bear fruit, you’ll be pruned away, and burned in the fire (John 15:2, 6).
The imagery is of a vine. Jesus is “the true vine”. What is the significance of the term “true”? Possibility #1: This does not mean true as opposed to false. It means true in the sense of superior, or substantial [cf. He is the true light (John 1:8-9); He is the true bread (John 6:31-35); heaven is the true holy place (Hebrews 9:24)]. It’s possible they were looking at a vine plant when this was said. Possibility #2: Israel , at times, is spoke of as a vine (Psalm 80:8-14; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1, etc.). Some came to believe that physical birth into Israel was sufficient to salvation. Jesus may be saying, “I am the true vine in which one must be.”
The branches are individual disciples, and not denominations as claimed by some. Denominations aren’t even under consideration. The context is obvious: (1) verse five reads, “ye are the branches.” Jesus is addressing his disciples, individual men, not denominations. (2) Verse six reads, “If a man abides not in Me…” Notice, men not denominations are in view.
Who can bear fruit unto God? Jesus said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; For without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just as a branch can do nothing without being sustained by the vine, even so, the ones bearing fruit unto God must abide in Jesus.
Does this mean that the non-Christian can’t do any good thing? “Sinners can read the New Testament and learn of and practice any and all of the ethical traits taught therein… However, sinners, not being in Christ, will never be able to acceptably glorify God by their good behavior (John 15:8; Ephesians 3:21), nor will reproduction of those Biblical ethical traits bring them into Christ where salvation is found exclusively… We must thus understand the Lord’s statement to be elliptical: Apart from me ye can do nothing [that will glorify my Father unto your salvation, that will enable you to be saved]” (Dub McClish, The Eighteenth Annual Denton Lectures, p. 392).
Let’s summarize the series: He is, (1) The Bread of Life. He is our spiritual sustenance. (2) The Light of the World. He is our guide, illuminating the way to the Promised Land. (3) The Door. He is our access to good things. (4) The Good Shepherd. He cares about us. (5) The Resurrection and Life. He is our hope, and comfort in death. (6) The Way, The Truth, and The Life. He is the road, standard, and life that leads to the Father, and eternal life. (7) The Vine. He is the sustainer of spiritual life, and the means by which we have the ability to bear acceptable fruit unto God.